Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tony Thomas Interviews Walt Disney

By Keith Mahne

We have a real special Walt Disney interview for you today! Walt did this eight minute interview with well respected movie historian Tony Thomas in 1959 for Thomas' radio show "Voices of Hollywood Past" where he talked with celebrities and discussed Hollywood history. Continue after the page break and have a listen...

When I came across this interview recently of Walt, I couldn't find any information about. So what do I do when that happens? Contact the wonderful Disney historian and author Jim Korkis of course! Here is the back story directly from Jim:

This interview took place when Thomas was working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. writing and producing programs about Hollywood.

For instance, in May 1959, he did a series of interviews with silent film actress Mary Pickford. He interviewed songwriters Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1960 among many others and later moved to Hollywood around 1966 and continued to do a radio show where  he interviewed Jim Morrison of THE DOORS musical group in 1970.

I don't know if all of Thomas' interviews are documented or even saved anywhere.   This interview with Walt was saved because a copy was in the Disney Archives. (Not all of Walt's radio interviews are there.)   A transcription of the interview can be found in the book "Walt Disney Conversations" by Kathy Merlock beginning on page 62 but she offers no background information.

Thomas authored thirty books on Hollywood related topics and produced several television documentaries.

He wrote books like "The Hollywood Musical", "The Busby Berkeley Book", "The Films of Ronald Reagan", biographies of actors like Errol Flynn and Joel McCrea and so many more.

He passed away at the age of 69  July 8, 1997 of complications from pneumonia.  He was also considered an expert about music used in films and was the founder of the Society for the Preservation of Film Music.

While I never met him, those who did always describe him as a warm, helpful, knowledgeable person.

He was a writer for the Academy Awards shows in 1979 and 1984 and has served as a segment producer for the Oscar show since the late '70s.

As an independent writer-producer, his films included Hollywood and the American Image, Back to the Stage Door Canteen and The West That Never Was, all for PBS; Film Score: The Music of the Movies and Wild Westerns for the Discovery Channel; and The Hollywood Soundtrack Story and Michael Feinstein: Sing a Song of Hollywood for American Movie Classics.

Thomas was a writer for the ABC special "The Fifty Years of Warner Bros.", a writer on the Steve Allen series "Meeting of Minds," and a writer-producer for three years on the syndicated series "That's Hollywood."

Today, less than twenty years after his passing, Thomas is generally forgotten except by those of us who love early Hollywood and have his books on our reference shelves.

Do not confuse him with Tony Thomas, the son of comedian Danny Thomas, and the producer of shows like Golden Girls, Empty Nest,  and the live action Beauty and the Beast television show who was born in 1948, the same year movie historian Tony Thomas started his career at the CBC. 

Jim Korkis and Keith Mahne

Before we start the interview, if you would like to know everything there is about Walt Disney and the company he created, I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy of Jim's book series The Vault of Walt. I have learned so much through these highly researched stories by Jim of Walt and I know you will as well. I've included a Amazon link to the books below:

Here now is the wonderful Tony Thomas interview of Walt Disney (please pause the Disney Avenue Music player prior to listening in the left-hand corner above if you are on a desktop computer):



Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. 

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.

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